2017 New York City Rising Star Sommelier Andrea Morris of Nix

2017 New York City Rising Star Sommelier Andrea Morris of Nix
January 2017

Nix
72 University Place
New York, NY 10003
www.nixny.com

Photos

A pescatarian gymnast walks into a restaurant, a few years later, emerges a sommelier. No, not the beginnings of a culinary one-liner. It’s the unexpected path of Andrea Morris, the 27-year-old beverage director at Nix.

Morris paid her dues working in some of the country’s most prestigious wine cellars. And that’s no accident. Morris has always been competitive by nature—remember, former gymnast here. It also didn’t hurt that Morris got into food at 16, landing the aforementioned butchery job at Oakland’s Bay Wolf. While she wasn’t sure what position she’d ultimately take in the industry, the Northern California native knew exactly what direction she was headed: East to the Culinary Institute of America. It was there that she fell in love with wine, and not just the tastes, but the details, the geography, the history. Morris even found herself tutoring her fellow students. 

Morris didn’t take long to accelerate. Starting as a server at Eleven Madison Park, she moved on to sommelier gigs at Oceana and Jean Georges, where she stayed for three years. Not one to shy away from a challenge, she now runs the beverage program for John Fraser’s vegetarian-only Nix, where Morris is curating a wine list for a niche—but emerging—high-end, vegetable-based cuisine. She also is currently studying for the Master Sommelier exam. 



Interview with New York City Rising Star Andrea Morris of Nix

D.J. Costantino: How did you get your start in wine?
Andrea Morris:
I’m from Oakland, and have been working in restaurants since I was 16 years old. I went to CIA, and did my externship at Picholine. I learned so much there, Terrence [Brennan] is a demanding chef! But, that's when I realized I didn’t want to be a chef, after all. I learned a ton, and the guys on the line were amazing, but I was only 19, it was my first time working in the city, and it was a lot. I have a perfectionist streak: I grew up as a gymnast, and that really guided me. I knew that if I wanted to be a chef, I'd want to work at a high-end fine dining restaurant, but I know I don't have the personality for that. So I took a wine class, the most failed class at CIA. I was always a nerd—I voluntarily took Latin in high school. But in the process of studying, I realized that wine was what I wanted to do, so I took a semester to travel and visit wineries. When I got back, I still had one semester left, so I got a job working at Maslow 6, the wine store in Tribeca, on weekends. I couch surfed, slept in hostels, and just barely broke even, using all of my money to pay for train tickets. I just really wanted to work in wine. 

DC: And how did you start working as a sommelier?
AM:
I worked at Eleven Madison Park, and used to have a tasting group that met on Saturdays. I took my Certified exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers with two other servers at EMP; they really helped me prepare. Once, I dropped a bottle of Champagne and John Regan mopped it up for me. I got my first job as a somm at Oceania, and was there for nine months. I loved the diverse clientele. I knew Bernard Son, and mentioned to him that I was interested in working at Jean-Georges, and two weeks later I was a server there. Six months after that, I was promoted to the wine team, the same week I passed my Advanced exam. I stayed there for three more years. I loved how hands-on the programs were: I got to do liquor ordering, by the glass ordering and sourcing, and felt really prepared to run my own show. I had never opened a restaurant until Nix, it was amazing.

DC: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
AM:
My friend Morgan and I have been organizing and hosting something called "Sommposium," I'm really excited about it. Right now, it’s just somms in the community; we source people from the group and by visiting well-regarded somms. There are two lectures once a month and they're about whatever speakers are feeling that day. We keep it free, so it's approachable and accessible to anyone who wants to come. The next step is to put together more entry level classes for serves and bartenders, teaching them really solid basics. The whole idea behind it is that we want to foster the next generation of somms.

DC: What’s the biggest challenge in running your own program?
AM:
There's no one watching what I do—who guards the guardian? There are times I’ll be thinking, is it too boring, too basic, too weird, or just not a fit with the menu? It took me a while to put Cabernet on the list, and I made sure I found one that I love. I want to have a wine for everyone.

DC: What's your five year plan?
AM:
I do love wine education, my first job was tutoring, and Sommposium is so satisfying, so I can see myself going in that direction, but it'd take a really special job to pull me from restaurants. I love writing, and I freelance for Edible Hudson Valley. I would like to become a certified yoga teacher after I pass my Masters, which I’m sitting for again in July. Sommposium is also an exciting prospect. It’s exciting to see what happens, and an exciting time to be in wine!